Ellen Allien: Nost (3xLP, Bpitch Control, May 2017)


Well, this is a surprise — and, on reflection, a pretty awesome one. I’ve been a fan of Ellen Allien’s since 2005’s Thrills, and enjoyed hearing her evolution as she combined the accessible and the experimental on 2008’s Sool and especially 2010’s Dust — and even to some extent on 2013’s modern dance soundtrack LIsm although I do have mixed feels about that. I think it’s fair to say that Nost represents a massive handbrake turn. It is wall-to-wall floor-filling bangers. It’s mostly hard, melodic, Berlin-style techno, although there are touches of Detroit, Sheffield, and some grubby Chicago acid (there’s even a track called, ahem, Jack My Ass). It’s also very, very good: inventive without being tricksy, paced brilliantly, and crammed full of moments of genius (just check out the insanely catchy bleep line on Physical). It’s the sort of record that makes me want to go clubbing again, and just get my head down and dance for hours. Result.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Minimal / Tech House.

Ellen Allien: LISm (CD, BPitch Control, March 2013)

Remember when Ellen Allien was a techno producer? For quite a while now, the original Berlinette’s output has had a pretty tenuous relationship with the genre, or indeed any genre at all, and has been none the worse for that (I’d take Dust over Thrills any day, much as I love Thrills). Still, I was a little thrown by LISm, because I was trying to understand it as a continuation of that arc, and it just made no sense: it was only when I gave up on that and accepted it on its own terms that I could appreciate it.

So. This was written as the soundtrack to a modern dance performance at the Pompidou centre (and just check out the artsy capitalization of the title). The first ten minutes revolves around a few notes repeated on a guitar, a skittering of percussion, and a vocal which says “falling, falling, falling”. It’s post-rock, essentially. Subsequent movements consist of floaty melodic ambient, dirty fuzzy ambient, and later on, occasionally, something with a 4/4 beat which could be considered a sort of überminimal techno maybe. There are some lovely moments in here, but on the whole, I kind of feel this isn’t what she’s best at, and for me it is a minor entry in the Allien catalogue.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Experimental / Electronic.

Ellen Allien: Dust (CD, BPitch Control, May 2010)

I’m always glad to see a new album from Ellen Allien come along, and although it took me a while to get around to buying this one, I’m glad I did. It’s a more approachable record than 2008’s Sool, perhaps most obviously reminiscent of her collaboration with Apparat, Orchestra Of Bubbles, in its warm melodies and gently glitchy beats. There are lots of vocals, all gently and sympathetically processed (see, vocoders needn’t be instruments of torture). I can tell you just where this album got me: there’s a bit on the first track, Our Utopie, where she sings “We count 1… 2… 3… And we’re still here…”, and there’s something kind of magical about it. It’s the kind of moment that makes me feel “I am in good hands, I can just settle back and enjoy the ride”.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Minimal Tech/House.